Soldier On:The Road Back From Iraq


December 16, 2011 by David Gillaspie

By David Gillaspie

Does that sound familiar?

Soldiering on.

You know what it means in uniform and out.

Now you know what it means to soldier on after standing down in a war zone. Mount up.

You’re getting home just in time. America needs you more than ever.

You guys, you soldiers in uniform, might find every bump in the road on your way back from Iraq. Or maybe just the big ones. Either way you’ll get things smoothed out.

Here are a few bumps.

The Air

Whether you live on base or off, it’ll be American air, American odors and aromas, American exhaust. It’s the same air you were raised on, the same air you exhaled in Iraq. 

Your American air is the wind under freedom’s wings, and you guys brought it.

The Land

Wearing the uniform and walking under the flag on foreign soil is the stuff of mythology, and you’ve done it. Now it’s time to work with the clay of creation and re-shape the experience.

You’ll see things that remind you of places you’d like to forget; walk down a city street and check corners like you used to. And that’s enough. 

It’s your training and the application kicking in. You get taught a certain way because it works. Now you have the right tools to build the next part of your life.

Break ground and start with a new foundation.  


You’ve been to the cradle of civilization and rocked it on the Tigress. Now you’re leaving.

Maybe you’ve got more work to do, but you’re leaving. 

You know people who will suffer when you go, but you’re leaving.

Pack your gear and get in line, you’re leaving. Let the water find its own level. 

Guys, you’ve seen the images of the Japanese surrender ending World War II. Very dignified and noble.

You’ve seen the documents ending the Korean War? If you said, “huh”, you are right, there aren’t any surrender papers.

Finally, you’ve seen the shot of the helicopter leaving the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon with people reaching out to hang on? How about the pictures from the aircraft carriers where crewman pushed helicopters overboard to make room for more to land with more people.

You guys are better than that.

Keep your eyes front and bring it on home. America wants your best. You are a wave of clean water breaking across the country.

In uniform or out, you’ll soldier on. More important, you’ll know when others don’t understand the nature of soldiering on. They need to learn, but you don’t need to teach them. Show them with your example then stand back.

You know your experience is personal, yet universal. When someone asks what you did in the war, then starts talking about themselves and their sacrifices, be an active listener even if you want to walk away before you put a scream job on them. Taking a little is a way of giving.  

It’s not disrespect when someone asks an awkward question so they can talk instead. It’s ignorance. You can take some jack-ass gas without hitting their mute button.

You’ll hear a lot of stupid questions the rest of your life. Be patient.

America might feel different to you at first. You might feel isolated within your service arm. You can read about it. But that’s not you.

Who are you?

You are the wood that bends instead of snapping,

the guard who stays awake instead of napping.

You know the difference between what’s real and a trick,

they call you the sharp end of the stick.

So do the rest of us. Keep the pride. You’ve earned it.


2 thoughts on “Soldier On:The Road Back From Iraq

  1. markmmullins says:

    Great thank you card. Need to keep on giving those kudos.

    • deegeesbb says:

      Trust will be a hard thing for the guys to regain, don’t you think? Trusting that a stranger on a cell phone isn’t detonating a bomb. Trusting that a funky car riding too low isn’t the same. We can start by being good listeners, right?

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